With 2012 shaping up to be the nation's hottest year on record, escaping the heat isn't always easy. A trip to the pool or beach might bring only short-lived respite. But there is another way: You could take off on a trip to cooler climes.
Read on for 10 great escapes that will save you from the summer heat.
Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska
Not every place in the U.S. is sweating. Summer is the best time to make a trip to Alaska, where the days are long and the temperatures mild. Glacier National Park and Preserve is a 3.3-million-acre World Heritage site in the Alaskan panhandle where the season's highs generally fall between 50 and 60 degrees. Whether sea kayaking through tranquil inlets or hiking in the shadow of towering mountains, you'll soon forget the heat wave back home.
You don't have to go north to cool off. You can also travel way south to the Southern Hemisphere, where ski season reaches its peak in July and August. About 100 miles from Santiago, Chile is Portillo, a wintery haven high in the Andes. The resort, which overlooks the pristine Lake of the Incas, is perched at 10,000 feet, and its dry powder and steep slopes attract expert skiers from around the world, including U.S. Olympians.
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
During mid-winter in Zimbabwe, the weather fluctuates between 43 and 77 degrees. It's not exactly cold, but it’s a perfect time to see Victoria Falls, where the mist keeps everyone cool. In July, the waterfall, which is located on the Zambezi River between Zimbabwe and Zambia, is transitioning a low-flow state. Visitors enjoy the spectacular view, and lower water levels allow for easier kayaking and rafting.
San Carlos de Bariloche is an idyllic city set on the southern coast of Nahuel Huapi Lake in Argentina's Patagonia region. In July, visitors aren't sunbathing on the lakeside town's beautiful beaches; instead, winter tourists hit the slopes. Bariloche is located in the foothills of the Andes, and this time of year, the temperature generally stays comfortably in the 40s.
Escaping the heat doesn’t necessarily mean shunning the sun. During summer in Reykjavik, days can last 20 hours. That's plenty of time to pack in all of the activities you can handle. Temperatures stay in the high 40s and 50s during July, but people keep warm swimming in the city's famous geothermal pools, which are heated by volcanic activity.
While the continental U.S. may be boiling, our neighbors to the north frequently offer cooler climes. Churchill, in northern Manitoba, Canada, is on the shore of Hudson Bay, and has a near subarctic climate. The chilly temperatures rise to an average of 53.6 degrees Fahrenheit in July, so summer visitors need hardly worry about freezing. Besides, you'll have bigger things to fret over. Churchill is known as the polar-bear capital of the world. Although the bears begin swimming ashore in mid-July, breathe easy knowing they don’t gather in large numbers until fall. There is another endangered mammal that does come out in full force in Churchill during the summer months: Beluga whales enter the Churchill River to feed, give birth and raise their young throughout July and August.
Winter in Melbourne is colder than most mainland Australian cities, but the mercury rarely drops below 42 degrees. The metropolis sees fewer tourists in chilly July than in the summer, which makes it an ideal time to visit. Admire the stunning architecture, catch an Australian football game, or stroll through Queen Victoria Market while avoiding the high-season rush.
San Francisco, California
Mark Twain once supposedly said, “The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco.” Whether or not the iconic American author actually made the remark, the words ring true. The Northern California city doesn’t heat up until September-October, and in the summer the temperatures often hover in the 50s and 60s. In July, visitors ride the trolley cars, cross the Golden Gate Bridge and explore Alcatraz without ever breaking a sweat.
Capetown, South Africa
In July, southern right whales make their way to the waters off South Africa’s southwestern coast, providing some of the world’s best land-based whale watching. Temperatures are coldest in Cape Town during the summer, but an average low of 47 degrees is hardly unbearable. It's rainy season, so don't be surprised if you get a little wet.
Next: Off-the-Charts Hottest and Coldest Places on Earth
Queenstown, New Zealand
Located on New Zealand's South Island, Queenstown is a resort town famous for adventure sports. From June through August, winter activities rule, and skiing takes center stage. The runs around town attract legions of skiers, while bigger thrill-seekers hop in a helicopter to reach less-populated slopes.